Controversy erupted this week when allegations came to light that the Liberal government may have tried to interfere in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting where 17 people were killed.
According to RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell’s notes, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a phone call that she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and then-Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair that the RCMP would publicly release information about the weapons the gunman used. Lucki was reportedly angry when the RCMP did not do so.
The Liberal government is alleged to have wanted the information made public to further their gun control agenda. Critics and opposition politicians have accused the government of attempting to use the tragedy for political gain. Lucki, Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have denied that there was interference in the investigation.
But how and when — if ever — should those who make laws be able to boss around those who enforce them? When has police interference taken place, and to what consequences did it lead?
CBC News spoke to some experts in an attempt to explain the tense, legally fuzzy and often controversial relationship between police and policymakers in Canada.
Why is policing supposed to be separate from politics?
The Supreme Court of Canada cites the Rule of Law as the founding principle of Canada’s democracy. It’s considered important to our constitutional order that no one, even the most powerful politicians in the country, can think of themselves as above the law.
But there’s another reason for police independence — in our democracy the government is supposed to be accountable to the people, which means people aren’t suppose to fear police going after them on the orders of the government.
“I think what we want to do is avoid a ‘police state,'” Kent Roach, a professor in the University of Toronto’s faculty of law, said. “And by that, I mean we want to avoid politicians telling the police who to investigate and who not to investigate.”
In states where the government can tell police what to do, experts say a pattern quickly emerges of government critics and opponents ending up in jail.
For those reasons, police autonomy in enforcing the law and protecting the public is a key ingredient in most well-functioning liberal democracies.
“Political leaders are not supposed to micromanage police services, that is antithetical to the very idea of democracy,” Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Alberta, said.
What does the law say?
While those principles seem like part of a basic civics lesson they’re ones Roach says many people, including police officers and politicians, often don’t understand well.
But there may be a reasonable excuse — the law itself isn’t clear.
“I think part of the problem here is that the lines of legitimate government direction to the police and illegitimate government direction are very vague.” he said.
While police independence from government is important in our democracy, Roach says it’s a principle that’s not always reflected in our laws.
“For example, the police cannot lay hate propaganda charges without prior approval of the attorney general,” he said.
“So there’s kind of no absolutes.”
In Lucki’s case, the RCMP Act states the Commissioner “has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force” but “under the direction of the minister.”
Roach said the law is confusing because it doesn’t go into details about what direction means, including what type of direction is appropriate for a minister to give to an RCMP Commissioner. It also doesn’t say whether a direction has to be in writing or can be given orally.
“It’s utterly vague, right?” Roach said.
Roach would like to see the RCMP Act amended to clarify what types of orders the government can legally give RCMP leadership.
He said there is a clear divide between directions that set rules for police generally, which are acceptable in a democracy, and directions for police to act in a particular way in a specific case, or to take action against a particular person, which are not.
He says a legitimate government directive to police might be guidelines on what information the police are allowed make public, or ordering the police to stop using a particular technique or practice.
But a directive that would not be acceptable would be directing police to charge someone with a crime.
During the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, the government was found to have interfered with RCMP operations by directing how the Mounties protected then Indonesian president Suharto. In a public inquiry report on the summit, Justice Ted Hughes concluded that the government twice tried to interfere with police operations by attempting to get police to keep protestors away from Suharto.
Hughes recommended the government amend the RCMP Act to legally clarify police independence from government. To date, no government has taken up the recommendation.
Roach says there may be a reason for the lack of action and clarity.
“I suspect that in some ways both the police and the politicians like to kind of keep the status quo, which is quite vague and murky,” he said. “I think that is unfortunate.”
What happens when politicians try to be police?
Politicians aren’t supposed to tell police what to do, but sometimes they can’t resist. While some politicians do come from a law enforcement background, most don’t — and it can show when they try to interfere with police work.
“They don’t have the the skill, the knowledge, the expertise, the lived experience, to make operational decisions,” Laura Huey, a professor of sociology at Western University, said.
She cited the 1997 APEC Suharto controversy as an example, but there are more recent ones too.
Huey says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s attempt to negotiate with the freedom convoy protestors earlier this year comes to mind — a move critical incident command experts told her made a bad situation worse.
“Most police services that deal with public order have people that are highly experienced, highly trained professionals that specialize in negotiating in situations like that,” she said.
“So do we want the mayor going down and mucking around on something of which he knows absolutely nothing and had zero effect anyway?”
Roach says his favourite example involves former RCMP Commissioner Leonard Nicholson, the most decorated Mountie in history whose name the RCMP headquarters bears.
In 1959, the John Diefenbaker government told Nicholson to send more officers to police a labour dispute in Newfoundland. Nicholson chose to resign instead of comply with the order.
“So that kind of shows that this idea that the RCMP doesn’t like political direction … is built into the RCMP’s DNA,” Roach said.
Is there a better way?
If too much political interference in policing is an issue, there are also perils in too little.
Voters don’t elect police officers but do elect politicians, so they have a role acting as a check on police.
“Society also cannot afford to have a police service that is not accountable to anybody,” Oriola said.
A section of the Liberal’s 2021 campaign platform is dedicated to changes to the RCMP, in particular making the Mounties more accountable.
Oriola calls the government-police relationship a “delicate” one that requires “a fine balance” and one where intentions should be considered.
“Are you giving directions to the police service to punish political opponents, or are you giving direction … in order that we might have a better society, and improved society based on the policy priorities that you campaigned on?” he said.
Huey says more training for police services boards, who hire police chiefs, may allow them to make better hiring decisions, which in turn could inspire more confidence in police leadership and result in less political interference.
“I think that if we hire highly competent people, we need to give them the space to make the decisions,” she said.
Roach says a potential solution, on top of more legal clarity on interference, is a law requiring any government ministers who direct police to do so in writing — including a requirement that the direction be public.
He thinks the RCMP Act could be amended with this requirement, and to permit it only outside of individual cases.
“It seems to me, in a democracy, citizens have a right to know what the minister is doing,” Roach said. “I think that that directive system could not only promote transparency, but could avoid all of these controversies.”
The politics of climate change | TheRecord.com – Waterloo Region Record
In her brilliant 2019 article “The challenging politics of climate change,” Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Brookings Institution, explores how “the lack of intensity around (climate change) is simultaneously incomprehensible and totally understandable.”
She offers four explanations: “complexity; jurisdiction and accountability; collective action and trust; and imagination.”
Our climate crisis is a political hot potato because it is complex and voters don’t like complexity. As well, it isn’t obvious how our actions impact the climate — for good or bad. We can’t see greenhouse gas emissions the way we can see water pollution from a chemical plant, or toxic smoke pouring out of a smokestack.
Kamarck says climate change and cybersecurity are “two of the stickiest problems of the 21st century … because it’s so difficult to nail down jurisdiction.” Who is responsible for what? Where does the buck stop? And do we trust our government and politicians to do the right thing?
A half-credit of Civics in high school is not enough for most of us to untangle the Gordian knot of responsibilities in the multiple levels of government impacting our lives.
The politics of climate change is about government action, or the lack of it, but it’s also about navigating the strategies we use to tackle the issue. Since we politicized climate change in the 1970s, our response has been highly divisive. This has to change because everyone is affected and a vigorous and collaborative political response is essential.
Despite the sound science, we still have climate deniers and liars, who come in many forms. The Guardian’s environment editor, Damian Carrington, categorizes them as “the shill, the grifter, the egomaniac and the ideological fool.”
In a Scientific American interview, climate scientist Michael Mann, famous for his hockey stick graph showing the exponential growth in carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from human activity, said that climate deniers have been replaced by inactivists. The deep pockets from the fossil fuel industry are now funding “legislative efforts blocking clean-energy policies” through “deflection, delay, division, despair mongering, doomism.”
Both the oil and tobacco industries share the same devious strategy to shift the blame and responsibility from the corporation to the individual. In 2005, British Petroleum created a marketing campaign for people to calculate their personal carbon footprints. There is no question that we each bear responsibility for our own actions to live sustainably, but who is holding corporations to account?
For the past 10 years, Ottawa-based Gerald Kutney has taken on the climate denialists, bots and trolls to clean up the Twitter-verse. His goal is to stop the propaganda and lies being repeated by the “denial-saurs” from becoming the truth.
Kutney picked Twitter because it’s “the best, ongoing teaching ground about climate denialism in the world, day in and day out.” To counter the piling on from followers of the biggest climate deniers, Kutney introduced #climatebrawl. Just like the bat signal in Batman’s Gotham City, the hashtag alerts an international support system prepared to do battle, armed with the truth about our climate crisis.
We have to trust the evidence-based solutions from our best climate scientists and not the ramblings and rants of disbelievers. Denial-saurs, like most of the contenders for the Canadian Conservative party leadership, are treating our future like a political football.
Kutney’s best advice is “Vote. Just vote,” and hold our elected officials to effective climate-action plans. We cannot afford to be silent in our winner-take-all electoral systems unless we want to be governed by the choices of a minority of climate denialists.
This goes for municipal politics as well. There will be many new faces on councils after this fall’s municipal elections. Our future depends on their commitment to climate action.
Afghans are suffering and dying while Canada plays politics, says aid worker – CBC.ca
Aid worker Samira Sayed Rahman was in eastern Afghanistan recently, where she met a woman struggling to survive in a one-room mud structure that she shared with her six children.
“If she is able to get food on the table, it is because she’s picking from the garbage. And if she can get enough of the hair and dirt off, she brings it home for her six children,” said Sayed Rahman, a Canadian who has been in Afghanistan for seven years, and works with the NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC).
“Otherwise [they] go days without eating,” she told The Current’s guest host Michelle Shephard.
The IRC was in the area to provide economic training to locals; this particular woman learned how to make pickles, as a source of income for her family.
Sayed Rahman said her story of deprivation is the story of millions of Afghans, who are having to resort to “horrific means to survive” since the Taliban’s resurgence in the country sparked a humanitarian crisis. And she added that it’s fuelled by an economic crisis that “is a direct result of the decisions of the international community.”
Afghans are resorting to “skipping meals, taking on debt, pulling children out of school — and … extreme measures, such as selling daughters into marriage or selling organs,” she said.
WATCH | Afghanistan gripped by humanitarian crisis
The humanitarian crisis is being fuelled by economic sanctions levied by the international community after the U.S. and its allies pulled out of Afghanistan last summer, and Kabul quickly fell into the hands of the Taliban. Funding and aid to the country was widely suspended in line with international policies around interacting with the Taliban, designated by many countries as a terrorist organization.
The UN estimates that of Afghanistan’s population of 38 million, roughly 25 million people are living in poverty, in need of humanitarian assistance. That number has risen from 14 million in July 2021, just before the Taliban’s takeover.
Some countries have created exceptions to their laws, to allow the delivery of aid to ordinary Afghans — but Canada’s strict policies remain in place. Last week, Canada-based aid agency World Vision cited the ban when it cancelled a large shipment of food to Afghanistan, which the charity said could have fed around 1,800 children.
“Aid organizations in Afghanistan that are heavily dependent on Canadian foreign aid are now struggling,” said Sayed Rahman, adding that policies intended to “isolate the Taliban” have instead “punished the Afghan people.”
“We are punishing 38 million people just because a few hundred are in power.”
WATCH | Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland discusses Afghan refugees
Taliban ‘remains a terrorist group’: GAC
In an emailed statement to The Current, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said that “Canada remains committed to facilitating life-saving assistance to vulnerable Afghans.”
“In 2022, Canada has allocated $143 million in humanitarian assistance to support vulnerable populations in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries,” the statement read.
But the statement added that “although the Taliban has taken over as the de facto national authority of Afghanistan, it remains a terrorist group and is a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code.”
Departments across the federal government are “working to identify a solution that upholds Canada’s national security interests while facilitating the effective delivery of assistance to the Afghan people in this unprecedented situation,” it said.
The Taliban’s early assurances that it would not row back progress for Afghan women and girls have not been borne out in the last 12 months. In March, the group decided against reopening schools to girls above the sixth grade.
GAC said that “Canada continues to engage with international partners to hold the Taliban to account for its horrific treatment and discrimination of women and girls.”
Last year, Canada’s then-minister of foreign affairs Marc Garneau said Canada could exert economic leverage over the Taliban, citing international aid earmarked for the country.
WATCH | Afghans urgently need help, says UN co-ordinator
Speaking to The Current on Tuesday, former member of Afghanistan’s parliament Fawzia Koofi said the Taliban too was exerting leverage, by weaponizing the rights of women and girls in their quest for international legitimacy.
“They are bargaining our rights for their political interests,” said Koofi, who was the country’s first female deputy parliamentary speaker.
Sayed Rahman agreed that the issue of girls’ education is important, but the humanitarian crisis is “a matter of survival for the Afghan people.”
She argued that Afghanistan’s population has relied on international aid and funding for years, only to have it suddenly removed in the last 12 months.
“Are we going to let more Afghans die in the meantime while we play our politics?” she said.
Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Samira Mohyeddin and Niza Lyapa Nondo.
Politics Briefing: Trudeau says approval of U.S. Inflation Reduction Act 'is good news for Canadians' – The Globe and Mail
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is praising the approval of major new climate-focused legislation south of the border, calling it “good news” for Canadians.
U.S. President Joe Biden signed the landmark Inflation Reduction Act on Tuesday, which is a watered-down version of the Democrats’ original “Build Back Better” plan.
From a Canadian perspective, the most significant change to the bill is the fact that the final version removed an earlier provision that would have excluded vehicles made outside of the U.S. from qualifying for generous new consumer tax incentives. The final version allows those incentives to apply to North American-made vehicles, which was a big win for Canadian officials and industry leaders who had lobbied Congressional decision makers for the change.
“It’s official: @POTUS signed legislation that will include Canada in a new tax incentive for electric vehicles purchased in the US,” Mr. Trudeau tweeted Tuesday evening. “This is good news for Canadians, for our green economy, and for our growing EV manufacturing sector.”
The U.S. plan is widely viewed by climate advocates as a serious effort to reduce emissions, but its incentive-focused approach is very different from Canada’s plan, which is based on imposing a growing price on carbon emissions via a patchwork of provincial programs and federal backstops.
The Globe and Mail’s Adam Radwanski recently wrote a detailed analysis of what the new U.S. bill means for Canada’s climate plans.
“What the breakthrough south of the border does demand is swift movement on policies that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised but not yet acted on, especially to use public dollars to attract private capital for clean technology,” he wrote. “It also requires a sharpening of existing programs with that aim. And it underscores the need to plug major gaps in Canada’s current climate strategy – especially when it comes to the cleanliness and reliability of the electricity grid, which is by far the biggest focus of the U.S. package.”
The Globe also recently reported that the substantial tax changes in the U.S. bill that will be imposed to cover some of the cost of the new incentives present tax policy challenges for Canada.
While the U.S. changes are substantial, they are not currently in line with OECD-led efforts to forge a common front on corporate taxation, especially with respect to large multinationals in the technology sector.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada strongly supports the OECD plans, but is prepared to go it alone in 2024 with a digital sales tax on foreign multinationals if the global talks are not finalized by then.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Bill Curry, who is filling in for Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
MOUNTIES STAND BY POLITICAL-INTERFERENCE ALLEGATIONS: Nova Scotia Mounties have told Parliament that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki put politics ahead of policing after Canada’s deadliest mass shooting when she pressed her investigators to make disclosures about firearms in a bid to reinforce the Liberal government’s gun-control agenda. Story here.
PROPORTION OF FRENCH SPEAKERS IN DECLINE: CENSUS – The proportion of Canadians who predominantly speak French at home declined in all provinces and territories except Yukon between 2016 and 2021, according to the latest census release. That includes Quebec, where a provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 3. Story here.
WASHINGTON POST FEATURE DESCRIBES STEVEN GUILBEAULT AS “CANADA’S ONETIME ‘GREEN JESUS’ WHO OKAYS OIL MEGAPROJECT”: “Guilbeault, now 52, is under fire for his decision in April to greenlight the Bay du Nord deep-sea oil drilling project off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, finding that it is ‘not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.’ He says that — to his knowledge — it will be the lowest-emitting project of its kind in the world.” Feature story on the federal environment minister is here.
INTELLIGENCE REPORT FLAGGED POSSIBLE ‘VIOLENT REVENGE’ AFTER OTTAWA CONVOY PROTEST SHUTDOWN: Newly disclosed documents show federal intelligence officials warned decision-makers that the police dispersal of “Freedom Convoy” protesters in Ottawa last winter could prompt an “opportunistic attack” against a politician or symbol of government. Story here.
ANTI-TERROR LAW CAUSING PROBLEMS: Humanitarian groups say the federal government should exempt their on-the-ground work in Afghanistan from its anti-terror law, warning that Ottawa’s current policies are preventing them from delivering crucial aid to people in desperate need. The law also hinders the work of groups helping evacuate Afghans to Canada. Story here.
CARDINAL OUELLET ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT: A prominent Vatican cardinal from Quebec, long considered a top candidate for the papacy, is one of dozens of clergy members facing allegations of sexual assault as part of a class-action lawsuit against his former diocese. Story here.
LAFLAMME’S CTV NEWSCAST ONE OF CANADA’S MOST POPULAR, RATINGS SHOW: Before her ouster as anchor of CTV National News this week, Lisa LaFlamme presided over one of the most-watched newscasts in Canada, whose ratings significantly outpaced competitors – raising questions about the rationale presented by CTV’s parent company, Bell Media, which referred to the abrupt change as a business decision. Story here.
CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARIANS HEADING TO TAIWAN: Liberal MP Judy Sgro, who chairs the standing committee on international trade, told CBC News that a group of MPs and Senators may visit Taiwan this fall. Story here.
NORTHERN NURSES GET A BOOST: Indigenous Services Canada will nearly triple incentives for nurses who work on remote Manitoba reserves, the Winnipeg Free Press reports here.
NEW PASSPORT OFFICE LOCATIONS ANNOUNCED: The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20.
RBC CEO SAYS EMPLOYEES SHOULD BE IN THE OFFICE MORE OFTEN: Dave McKay says in an internal memo to staff that more frequent office attendance is needed. He said technology can’t replicate the “energy, spontaneity, big ideas or true sense of belonging” that come from working together in person. He added that mentorship and skills development, critical parts of the bank’s culture, are challenging when done through video screens. Globe story here.
The Globe’s Asia correspondent James Griffiths is on the show to talk about how Taiwan came to dominate the semiconductor and microchip industry and why it’s crucial to the delicate geopolitical situation today. A link to Wednesday’s podcast, as well as earlier episodes, can be found here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
The Prime Minister’s public itinerary says he is in private meetings Wednesday in the National Capital Region.
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) says the proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act places the province on the verge of the constitutional abyss: “We are potentially seven weeks away from a constitutional crisis, the likes of which this country has not seen. Because the front-runner for the UCP leadership is Danielle Smith, and because the centrepiece of her campaign is a wholly unworkable, flagrantly unconstitutional and massively destabilizing proposal called the Alberta Sovereignty Act.”
Matt Gurney (TVO) wades into Toronto’s Car vs. Bike debate raging in High Park and concludes it’s time for widespread photo radar: “Put a robot on every corner. In every park. Or at least have enough of them that they can be rotated through all of the city, ensuring coverage in all areas on a regular basis. I really wish this weren’t necessary. Really. But no one can spend any time at all on Toronto’s roads and walk away unconvinced that they are necessary. Toronto drivers are terrible. The police have more important stuff to do than hand out tickets. Neighbourhoods need help controlling reckless drivers. And we have a ready-made, proven technological solution that will eventually pay for itself. Not every problem in life has such a clear solution. This one does. What the hell are we waiting for? Bring on the robots.”
The Globe and Mail’s editorial board says Canada’s Conservative Party should not be drawing inspiration from U.S. Republicans: “What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in American politics does not remain in the United States. It drifts across the world’s longest undefended intellectual border, and it falls like acid rain. Prolonged exposure – too much MSNBC or Fox News – can lead to hallucinations, delusions and loss of contact with (Canadian) reality. Voters and politicians are both susceptible to infection … But the party most at risk from cross-border emissions these days is the Conservative Party. There’s a lot of crazy in American politics right now, and the majority of it is coming from the people that Conservatives think of as their American cousins. The Republican Party is increasingly going off the deep end.”
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